by Grady King
Wiring? Yes, it’s the best word to describe the complexities of personality, family of origin, needs, gifts and expectations. To ignore the question, “How is your spouse wired?” is to travel down a dangerous road swerving around the potholes of frustration, chronic anxiety and feelings of hypocrisy. Imagine driving at night on a unfamiliar road with no lights. This is why it is essential to consider the wiring of your spouse for ministry. Granted, they were not “hired” for ministry, but is your spouse wired to be with you in ministry?
Ministry, like it or not, does carry certain expectations. The old cliche’– ”Ministers live in glass houses” remains true to a large extent. People are possessive of their ministers and watch their lives closely with unrealistic expectations. Is it fair? No! It is, however, a reality in which both the minister and spouse must be secure in their identity and practice good boundaries.
A reluctant spouse who merely tolerates their mate in ministry is set up for resentment. First, as it related to life in the ‘glass house’ and eventually, the minister. Sometimes the minister responds to this by investing time in taking care of the bride of Christ: the church. Ministry can be a mistress seducing the minister into a workaholic lifestyle. The minister receives affirmation and acceptance by the church not experienced at home. This opens the door for the spirits of isolation, loneliness and resentment to settle in and left unchecked these spirits go out, bring their friends anger and bitterness with them and the last state is worse than the first. I use “spirits” because all these emotional issues are spiritual in nature.
And the cycle continues. Spouses often feel and share that the minister’s priorities are: God first, church second and family third. After all, who wants to compete with God when the minister spends time and responds quickly to meeting the need of God’s people over his own spouse and family? Or, as one weary minister’s wife stated while in counseling, “I hate it when my husband plays the “God card” if I dare question his priorities.” Of course, most ministers do struggle with setting personal boundaries, saying, “No” to church and “Yes” to family.
Regardless of the personality of the spouse, introvert or extrovert, being comfortable in one’s own skin, awareness of family of origin dynamics and finding their own interests and ways to minister is essential.
Because the established church is laden with emotional sinkholes, some spouses will suffer being married to a minister. Loneliness and isolation are real; identifying and maintaining healthy boundaries is challenging.
Key factors to consider regarding wiring of the spouse are: unresolved issues related to personal identity, emotional health and boundaries. Certainly, no one is perfect, yet when there is an unwillingness to work on these issues in a marriage, the minister and the ministry suffer. Ignored, these issues will prove spiritually debilitating.
Consider the wiring of your spouse . . .
• Secure vs Insecure
…comfortable or uncomfortable in one’s own skin?
• Emotionally Healthy vs Unhealthy
…growing or stuck in guilt, shame and/or blame?
• Assertive vs Passive
…asking for what one wants and needs or passive-aggressive?
• Collaborative vs Competitive
…sharing or possessing the minister’s time and energy?
• Supportive vs Resentful
…emotionally present or distant with minister’s work?
What if I am SINGLE?
Certainly one can be a minister and not be married. So, the considerations for the wiring of your spouse can be applied to your own well being, a dating relationship that is getting serious or a guide for pre-marital conversations.
Next week we will consider how soul care plays into the ministry role.